Students, media scholars and professional journalists came together online this month for a three-day conference on the media industry in the digital age. The talks focused on how the profession is being affected by technology and social media trends, and the skills young people entering the profession will need.
The Faculty of Mass Communication at Cairo University organized the event, called the “Arab Media Youth Forum”. It engaged youth from universities in several Arab countries through online workshops and panel discussions, with talks on topics including television presentation, creative writing, video journalism, and digital media, said Nashwa Akl, executive director of the forum and a professor of mass communication.
It also featured a competition to choose the best graduation project on the topic of sustainable development. Students from faculties of mass communication submitted entries in several categories, including documentary films, electronic journalism, and advertising campaigns.
Howayda Mustafa, dean of the Faculty of Mass Communication at Cairo University, said that the forum aimed to “educate young people about Arab media issues, and qualify them to meet the needs of the labour market and international participation.”
“The forum aimed to educate young people about Arab media issues, and qualify them to meet the needs of the labour market and international participation.”Howayda Mustafa
Dean of the Faculty of Mass Communication at Cairo University
Other media education leaders who participated included Prince Naif bin Thunaiyan Al Saud, dean of the College of Arts at King Saud University; Hanan Al-Sheikh, dean of the Faculty of Media at Jordan’s Middle East University; and Mudhad Al-Asadi, dean of the College of Fine Arts at the University of Baghdad. Prominent media professionals from several Arab media outlets also participated.
The Challenges of Social Media
The conference included a panel on how social media had affected the media coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Egyptian journalist Omar Fares said the volume of information shared on social media “highlighted an important problem, which is to verify the content and apply professional standards before conveying information circulated on social media.”
Ahmed Al-Sheikh, a digital media consultant based in the United Kingdom, also stressed the importance of making sure that information collected on social media is accurate. “Trending topics have become a material sought after by some journalists. Dealing with trends as a media source leads to grave professional violations, like taking statements out of their context.”
Nashwa Akl, the forum’s executive director, told Al-Fanar Media: “The discussions made me feel that there is a gap between students’ reception of the traditional media, through their study of its theories, and the practices of new digital media.”
In his comments at the forum, Albert Shafiq, Chairman of ON TV Network, said: “Traditional media is inseparable from keeping pace with digital media. An uneducated student’s joining the media profession is unacceptable, in light of the great transformations in media forms, and the possibility of creating easy content on social media, unlike the situation years ago.”
The forum also featured presentations from a “number of experts who were able to provide remarkable media experiences in terms of content, and artistic and visual components,” Akl said.
Speakers included the directors of the ceremonies of the “Pharaohs’ Golden Parade” and the grand opening of the “Avenue of the Sphinxes” at Luxor, both of which were recently screened on Egyptian TV. “All this is to help students meet the creators of those inspiring experiences, to learn skills they need in addition to their academic study,” she explained.
Akl also suggested supporting a program to help students discover talents in career areas they may not have considered. “One of the most difficult challenges students face is the traditional view they have before they join the college, that media colleges aim to prepare them to work in front of the camera as TV show presenters,” she explained.
The Skills Experts Value
In discussions of the media labour market, Osama Al-Sheikh advised students not to wait for traditional employment opportunities but to “innovate and take advantage of the opportunities being opened by the Internet for media professionals”.
Al-Sheikh, who is the founder and developer of several TV channels, said “content creation, or developing program templates, is one of the most important skills that university education should pay attention to.” Journalism schools should establish specialized units in that field, he added.
Abanoub Emad, a program producer at the Sky News Arabia satellite channel, called on young people strive to break out of stereotypes and explore different training and work opportunities. “Each platform determines its most suitable digital production means, according to its tools,” he said. “Practice is the best way to discover the most successful ways to bring interaction.”
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For his part, Mahmoud Muslim, editor-in-chief of Egypt’s Al-Watan newspaper and head of the DMC channel group, said: “Good content is the most prominent basis in the media industry. Besides culture and language proficiency, a successful journalist needs to master technology, how to deal with social media, search engines skills, and how to deal with digital and printed platforms.”
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